Condor & Jaybird Say The Pandemic Has Given Them "Breathing Room"
The Quad Cities band Condor & Jaybird were the last act we had the opportunity to host in Studio One before the shutdown. After the pandemic ruined their album release and tour plans, they have a new outlook on music and life.
This post contains language that some may find offensive.
Flashback to a year ago. The Moline, Illinois-based band Condor & Jaybird were performing live on IPR’s Studio One Tracks.
“That session was one of the most fun things I’d done in a long time,” said drummer Bryson Foster. "It's an amazing opportunity and privilege to be in such a beautiful studio, so to a musician it was like being a kid in a candy shop. We had also been rehearsing for several months in preparation for the tour that we were days away from embarking on, and it felt rewarding to play our first gig live and on camera in Iowa at IPR. I'll also toot everyone's horn a little here and say everyone played like absolute fire."
(As an aside, the set was fire. Watch the full performance on Iowa Public Radio's YouTube Channel.)
Nobody knew at the time it would be IPR’s last live in-studio session for at least the next year and one of the band’s last shows for at least that long.
On Friday, March 13, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency. That night Condor & Jaybird were at the Village Theatre in East Davenport, preparing for a show and subsequent tour in support of their newly-released album “The Glory.” The band spent the evening taking phone calls from promoters - all calling with bad news.
“We had 250-300 people ready for the show, and then news started trickling in that the virus was a really big deal,” said Jeramie Anderson, one of the band's two vocalist/guitarists. “It wasn’t looking so good for the month-long tour we had booked starting the next day.”
The band’s planned tour included several shows in Austin, Texas, as part of the annual South By Southwest festival (SXSW). Although the official SXSW festival had been cancelled the weekend before, many promoters were still planning to host showcases and house concerts.
It took less than a day for Condor & Jaybird’s months of planning to go up in the proverbial smoke.
“We had gotten a text from one of the promoters that was helping us out down in Austin, that it probably wouldn’t be worth it to come down. We had a bunch of showcases and house shows booked, and they all cancelled,” said Anderson. “We’re juggling the whole production of this record release that we’ve been working on for three years, and while we’re trying to exist in this moment, we’re just getting bombarded with bad news.”
As weeks turned into months, it became a challenging time for the band.
“I became extremely manic,” said Anderson. “When you’re gearing up for a month-long tour, you’re kind of in this ‘energy-building’ mode, because of the taxing nature of DIY touring. I had months and months of energy stored up that was preparing me to sleep on the floor for a month and do a 12-hour car drive. The energy didn’t really leave until November, so I really think we all tried to make the best of what was just the shittiest situation a band could ever find themselves in.”
The band experimented with livestreamed events on Instagram, but the experience left them cold. “It felt like the wrong adaptation and the wrong use of creative energy," said Anderson. “You’re on Instagram, and there’s maybe 25 people watching. The sound is terrible... and you’re like ‘I’ll do anything to play a show right now, even if it’s terrible.'"
The band only did one concert that way.
“We took a couple of months off, not practicing or anything,” said Connor Lyle, the band’s other vocalist/guitarist. “It was nice, because we’d been constantly gigging or writing for about six years. Then we jammed again in September and October, and we wrote like five songs in two to three weeks.”
Several members of the band also took the opportunity to create music with other bands they’re involved in. Anderson and Foster made a record with their band Sunshine, and Anderson wrote a whole album’s worth of music with his band Dark Family.
Despite all of this, Condor & Jaybird have no plans to resume performing live, and all members of the band are at peace with that decision.
“My social anxiety could not handle a show right now,” said Foster, laughing. “We’ve been pretty vocal about how we don’t want to play shows during the pandemic. We do have super-tentative stuff in mind, but that’s all pending news that we receive daily about COVID-19.”
Aside from their safety concerns, the members of Condor & Jaybird say their perspective on music has shifted, along with their reasons for getting together and making music.
“For a while there, we were playing a lot of shows. We’d have three to four shows a month, sometimes more, and it was always in preparation for those shows that we were practicing or writing,” said Anderson. “Since then, music’s become a lot more about just being with friends, and the therapeutic application of just being in the song."